House GOP Approves Spending Bill Already DOA in Senate, at White House

July 27, 2023 by Dan McCue
House GOP Approves Spending Bill Already DOA in Senate, at White House
U.S. Capitol, July 26, 2023. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — In their final significant vote of the summer, House Republicans on Thursday passed their first government funding bill in the face of bipartisan opposition and the certainty that the spending plan is DOA as it heads over to the Senate.

The bill, H.R. 4366, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2024, passed in the House by a 219-211 vote, with two Republicans, Reps. Tim Burchett, of Tennessee, and Ken Buck, of Colorado, joining every Democrat in voting against the measure.

So fractious was the debate that a vote on a second funding bill, H.R. 4368, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2024, was punted to Sept. 12. 

Congress has only until Sept. 30 to complete votes on all 12 spending packages that fund the government and to have President Joe Biden sign off on them. If it misses that deadline, the risk is a partial government shutdown.

The spending bill passed in the House on Thursday became mired in controversy after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and GOP appropriators sought to appease conservatives by marking up legislation at fiscal year 2022 levels.

This funding was well below the caps set in the debt ceiling struck by President Joe Biden and McCarthy in late May.

Republicans also included a number of provisions taking aim at the president’s efforts to foster and protect diversity, equity and inclusion, and expand access to abortion and birth control.

In a letter released last week, the White House Office of Management and Budget said the administration “strongly opposes” the bill passed on Thursday.

“In May, the administration negotiated in good faith with the speaker on bipartisan legislation to avoid a first-ever default and protect the nation’s hard-earned and historic economic recovery,” the office said. 

“This negotiation resulted in the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and set spending levels for FYs 2024 and 2025,” it noted. “The agreement held spending for non-defense programs roughly flat with FY 2023 levels, a compromise that protected vital programs Americans rely on from draconian cuts House Republicans proposed. 

“The agreement also protected historic legislative accomplishments from the past two years, including the Inflation Reduction Act, Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, CHIPS and Science Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (bipartisan infrastructure law).  

“House Republicans had an opportunity to engage in a productive, bipartisan appropriations process, but instead, with just over two months before the end of the fiscal year, are wasting time with partisan bills that cut domestic spending to levels well below the FRA agreement and endanger critical services for the American people,” the office said. 

After Thursday’s vote the Congressional Equality Caucus also blasted the measure, which it said, among other things, would prohibit government funds from being used to provide gender-affirming care, undo several presidential executive orders safeguarding civil rights for the LGBTQI+ community and would allow people and organizations to discriminate against members of that community under “the guise of religious liberty.”

“This bill is an attack on LGBTQ+ veterans and their families. LGBTQ+ veterans bravely served this country, but extreme MAGA Republicans have made clear they don’t believe these veterans deserve our government’s support,” said Equality Caucus Chair Mark Pocan, D-Wis. “The anti-equality provisions in this bill are bigoted. Period.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., vice chair of the Equality Caucus, said the bill failed the servicemembers and their families who need facilities that keep them safe and well trained, and fell short in supporting efforts to ensure the VA can provide care for all our veterans. 

“Even worse, MAGA extremists freighted this once-bipartisan military construction and VA spending bill with cruel, anti-equality riders,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Rather than solve recruitment and retention issues or confront a climate change threat our armed forces face, this bill bans medically necessary gender-affirming care and flying Pride flags, and basically hands out licenses to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community.

“It is an especially shameful insult to all our brave LGBTQ+ veterans,” she said.

After the vote, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., announced on the floor that the chamber would wrap up its business and head into summer recess after addressing a final item on its schedule Thursday afternoon.

The only item left on the House agenda at that point was voting on a resolution expressing disapproval of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to move the northern long-eared bat from the threatened to the endangered species list.

Scalise’s announcement meant all anticipated votes for Friday were canceled.

According to House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the next scheduled votes in the House are on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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